For Drama students at St Joseph’s College, the change between performing in front of a live audience, to performing to a camera, has been a significant one, and one that Head of Drama Mr Pat O’Shea is revelling in.
“We have been very focussed on continuing the great work that was being achieved in class, and coming from a position of gratitude and appreciation that we are lucky enough to have the resources, the staff and the perseverance from our students to forge ahead with our learning.”
Drama has been on the up and up at the College in recent years, with a record six HSC boys achieving nominations for OnSTAGE in 2019. Although continuing to aim for excellence, there has been a purposeful shift in message from Mr O’Shea to his students, one of resilience, and a gratitude for the position that the students and staff find themselves in. “In all that we are doing in Drama, we are being considerate of our wellbeing, acknowledging our feelings, and looking at the positives in our current situations. We can only control what we can control and we are adapting to get the very best out of our current situation.”
The College Drama department and its students have had additional support and guidance from a number of industry experts. Although the performance space has changed, the benefits of the continued online presence of the industry experts hasn’t gone unnoticed by the boys. Year 12 student Sebastian Melki highlights the additional support as a great motivator and resource for continuing to aim for high marks. “I think we have been very lucky at Joeys to have the industry experts and teachers on hand to continue to guide us, give constructive feedback and encourage us to aim for that top mark in Drama.”
I look forward to the ability to work with the boys every day! I get up every morning and say ‘great! I get to zoom today’, that is a very fortunate position to find myself in”STEFO NaNTSOU – DRAMA INDUSTRY EXPERT
Like the boys, many of the Joeys industry experts have continued to work, train and teach from home. “We have had so much positive feedback, from the students, the parents and the industry experts,” Mr O’Shea says. “For many of our industry experts who are also in isolation, the ability to interact with the boys on a weekly basis has been the highlight of their week.”
For regular industry expert Stefo Nantsou, the weekly classes are profoundly more meaningful to him. “What has been helpful, is that we worked with many of the boys last year and have been fortunate enough to work with them earlier this year. We now know the boys, and there is a great trust established, and we have been able to rise to the challenge and continue working in this virtual environment together. It may not have been as easy to jump into this environment if we didn’t know the boys so well. I look forward to the ability to work with the boys every day! I get up every morning and say ‘great! I get to Zoom today’. That is a very fortunate position to find myself in.”
Drama, like many subjects, is learning from and adapting to the challenges that the digital environment presents. For a subject that is so reliant on visceral emotions and the presence of the performer, performing to a number of fellow students, peers and teachers, each in their own individual space, has been eye-opening to say the least.
All of the Joeys performers are taking a leaf out of Mr O’Shea’s book and facing the changes and challenges with a level of gratitude. Year 12 student Kit Hartley has taken this approach on board: “It’s interesting to see how the drama pieces have adapted to the online delivery. It is great that there hasn’t been a negative impact on our performances. I actually think all of the boys’ performances are looking really good”.
The sentiment is shared by many of his classmates, including fellow Year 12 Drama student Billy Jack Velder, “The fact that we are all in the same boat makes the extra effort really worthwhile. The way I am learning is so new and different, I feel like it is keeping me on my toes, and I am naturally focussing harder to remember what I am learning. That has to be a positive thing in the long run.”
Mr O’Shea is confident that the upbeat attitude and continued desire to push forward will only lead to positive outcomes in the digital performance space. “The students never take the feedback and guidance provided by the Drama teachers and industry experts for granted, and they are so incredibly grateful for the continued effort that everyone is providing. I have had 100 per cent attendance across all of my classes, and just that small statistic demonstrates the drive and ambition that the boys still have towards their learning.”
Although it is still early days and there are many classes ahead of him in 2020, Mr O’Shea can’t help but continue to be positive, and with the bar set high in 2019, he is thankful that the Joeys spirit may be that special ingredient helping all Drama students to ‘strive for better things’.